In last week’s New Yorker Meghan O’Rourke wrote an article about grief and the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: ‘In the end, Kübler-Ross could perhaps have done more to help her own family grieve after her death. Like many Americans, she planned her funeral, and insisted it be a “celebration” rather than an occasion for mourning. Dozens of “E.T.” balloons were released into the air, symbolizing “unconditional love.” Perhaps we were to picture her bicycling through the sky toward home.’
The inability to understand other people’s grief can be taken as a proof of empathy. Who wants other people to suffer? The inability to accept your own grief can be understood as a survival technique.
Meghan O’Rourke writes: ‘In “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917), Freud suggested that mourners had to reclaim energy that they had invested in the deceased loved one. Relationships take up energy; letting go of them, psychiatrists theorize, entails mental work.’
Grief may be sadness about a wrong investment.
Who wants to invest in the dying?